Most of us have a morning ritual that kicks off our day: drinking coffee or tea, eating breakfast, feeding the dog, reading or listening to the news, exercising, even meditating. But among the things I do in order to begin the day in the right spirit, making the bed is by far the most important. Why should such a mundane task rank so high?
It may seem trivial, but the habit of making one’s bed every morning is anything but. When done in a mindful manner, this task can have the effect of starting the day with a clean, orderly slate. When I am making my bed, moving from one side of the bed to the other, pulling up and straightening the covers, smoothing out the bedspread, fluffing the pillows, I feel as if I am “making the bed” of my mind—ordering my thoughts, acknowledging my emotions, soothing my psyche. I am focusing on the details in front of me, and in so doing, I am allowing my mind to take a break from “monkey brain” and concentrate, instead, on the matter at hand. When I am finished, it’s a no-brainer to pick up stray clothes, shoes or towels, putting them away in their rightful places. Seamlessly, I move on to the kitchen. A domestic chore that was once a headache, an odious task that I found almost impossible to face, becomes easy by association. Well, I think, the bed’s made…I may as well clean the kitchen, too. And I imagine how happy I’ll feel when I come home, at the end of the day, to an orderly house.
Even once I was in the habit of making my bed, the kitchen was a more formidable obstacle. Generally, I couldn’t even begin to clean up the mess until I had first emptied the dishwasher, which brought up resistance: a dreaded “pre-task” that requires bending over uncomfortably, again and again. It was only when I was able to install thoughts of gratitude—gratitude that I even have a dishwasher, and dishes to put into a dishwasher, and a kitchen to house the dishwasher, etc…not to mention the pretty Greenbelt view from my kitchen window—that I was able to begin. Now that’s become a habit, too.
Of course, all this goes back to my childhood, and my mother. When I was growing up in Memphis, I recall what a big deal it was when we finally got a dishwasher. I must have been a teenager by then. I remember Mother feeling guilty when Daddy bought it, like it was too fine a possession, something she didn’t deserve. Before that, Mother washed everything by hand without complaint. She was a stay-at-home mom—a common occupation in the 50s—and she saw keeping house as her job. When it came to the beds, she first pulled back all the covers to the foot of the beds, allowing the sheets to air out for several hours before making them. My main chore, as a little girl, was emptying all the waste baskets in each room into one can for efficient disposal. I adored doing this; it made me feel important, and helpful. I was Mother’s mini-me.
Now my mother is gone and even my own motherhood, in the daily, kids-underfoot sense, is past. It has occurred to me that I don’t even have to make the bed anymore. It’s only my husband and I in the house and, to his credit, he could care less. Also, if I asked him, he would happily oblige. I make the bed because I can. It’s an exercise, not in rigidity and compulsivity, but in gravity—gravity of the spiritual kind. This chore, and the others that follow, bind me to this life, this Earth. They tether me to myself.